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Thank you to Bob Sprankle at Seedlings for this great Web 2.0 tool. Students can type in text or upload Word or pdf documents to the Read the Words website. A ‘voice’ is chosen to read the text. The resulting sound file can be embedded into a blog (as I have done to the right) or downloaded as an mp3 file to listen to. A great motivator for students to encourage a more effective proofing and editing process as well as providing a bit of a giggle :-). Free registration provides a wider range of voices. Below is the text from my Read The Words audio – a reworked excerpt from a paper Lesley and I wrote for AAEC conference in 2006.

The use of ICT tools such as word processing, graphics packages, database and spreadsheet applications, has often been proposed as evidence of technology uptake and integration into learning and teaching. While many worthwhile uses have been made of these tools, their integration has largely been as an optional ‘add-on’ to an unchanging traditional teaching environment (Bottino, 2003). In contrast, I recommend educators take advantage of the potential of new technologies, including Web 2.0 tools and provide a variety of multimodal ICT project-based learning activities to enhance children’s learning. There are many benefits associated with this approach. Students have a high level of engagement while they are actively designing and making multimedia presentations for real audiences. Teachers report that not only are students gaining a greater depth of understanding of curriculum areas but their collaborative, communication and problem-solving skills are also being developed. Research also testifies that students display increases in mental effort and involvement, interest, planning, collaboration and individualisation (Lehrer et al, 1994). The acquisition of ICT skills and confidence, independence and risk-taking when using technology were also a valued consequence.

New media, Web 2.0 tools and software have many beneficial impacts in the classroom. Key aspects of this kind of learning is not so much the technology itself but the interaction of the learner with the technology (Gros, 2003). Using ICT has tremendous potential for reaching, motivating and fully involving learners. Any teacher who has used ICT project-based learning strategies should be able to attest to the power of a project topic to capture a student’s energies and enthusiasm for exploring knowledge (Richards, 2005). Project-based activities encourage collaborative talk around the computer screen. Students also freely and easily share resources and skills. Multimedia projects can encourage students to be better learners as they are getting immediate feedback as they work through their project and reflective evaluation from peers and audience when they have completed their product.

The most successful classroom projects involve the interweaving of learning, student engagement and presentation. Teachers provide a framework for students to scaffold their learning by balancing support and the explicit teaching that needs to occur. The result is not only improved learning outcomes but your students will learn to use these emerging technologies and communicate effectively in ways that are visual, dynamic and interactive.

Do you have only a few computers in your classroom? Do you want to engage your students in a motivating project? Why not think about having your students create a multimedia slideshow which interweaves words and pictures, movies, voice narration and music.

ICT projects provide excellent opportunities for group interaction, which improve students’ collaboration, communication and decision-making skills. Multimedia learning projects provide an especially useful focus for reflecting on the interactions between individual and collaborative or team efforts (Richards, 2005). A group project relies on constant communication and understanding between team members as they work together to produce their final product. This builds a sense of worth and belonging as well as engagement in the project.

By collaborating, students can develop thinking and problem-solving skills. Specifically, students can learn to approach and solve new problems as well as project and time management skills. These skills will transfer across all Key Learning Areas and many related concepts and processes. Collaborative multimedia projects can be projects which have a duration of several days to lasting the whole term.

Another important aspect of a  collaborative project is the final product.  Student groups should publish their  multimedia project to an audience, whether that be their classmates or more preferable via CD or the internet to a wider audience. This  encourages greater application and commitment to the project and motivates students to improve the quality of the work.

Suitable software for collaborative projects can include PowerPoint, PhotoStory, imovie and Moviemaker. It could also involve collaborating with online Web 2.0 tools, like Google Earth, Google Docs, Picasa and VoiceThread.

Richards, C. (2005). The design of effective ICT-supported learning activities. Language Learning & Technology. 9 (1) 60-79.


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